The Times – top procurement publication!

If you ever doubted how central procurement and supply chain issues are to our lives, yesterday's Times newspaper might just have persuaded you. Here's some of what it included - many of these are stories to which we may well return at greater length. We've provided links although the Times is behind the paywall (get the daily vouchers for the physical paper and get Internet access free plus other goodies - it's  good deal).

Firstly, we had the NHS 111 issue which we've reported on several times. What we still don't know is whether the problem is really restricted to NHS Direct - did they just "get their sums wrong" as one Minister said, or are other providers struggling with assumption made in the bidding process that have turned out to be incorrect? And, most importantly, does this tell us anything about the skills available in the Clinical Commissioning Groups, which is a key issue for all of us given they have to do a lot of very important health services procurement to do in the near future.

Then the Times also featured the latest issues around Apple's supply chains, with more accusations of poor employment practice. "An undercover investigation into three Pegatron factories employing 70,000 workers found 86 legal and ethical breaches including poor conditions, withheld pay, forced illegal overtime..." etc. As we've said before, Apple are so powerful now that they inevitably take the flak in terms of issues like this, which I'm sure aren't restricted to their supply chain. And they're trying hard - they were the first technology firm to join the Fair Labor Association, for instance. But that doesn't make it any less important that all firms address these issues before they become major reputational risks.

Number three, and we're back to the public sector. The paper's lead feature from Rachel Sylvester looked at the work of the UK Government's Digital Service team, who are revolutionising the delivery of services to the public (or trying to anyway). I did go to a meeting at their office a few months ago and it is very much as Sylvester described it - lots of kids, big whiteboards, and a very un-civil service atmosphere. And they are doing good stuff, this isn't just hype.

But Sylvester then goes on to talk about the implications for government's big IT providers, who face losing a lot of business to smaller, more nimble providers, or indeed to government doing things themselves again.  My view is that this will take more time than might be expected - you don't suddenly move MOD, DWP or Tax IT business to a garage-based start up in Clerkenwell, and re-building internal capability won't be easy. However, I'm with Stephen Kelly, government COO,  on this conceptually, and the writing is on the wall - by the time I'm getting my pension I suspect the government IT supplier landscape will look very different from how it is now.

Then, we found that Ryanair employ pilots for their fleet of 737-800 aircraft through a sub-contractor, Brookfield Aviation International, who have been accused  of breaking employment law. They are accused of denying pilots basic rights, for instance by charging big penalties if they leave before the end of their notice periods. So that takes us into some interesting procurement issues around temporary / contingent labour and acquiring staff through those routes.

Phew! One day in the Times. And that's before we feature other pieces about lads' mags, the new government website featuring spend information (definitely more on that to come), fracking protests, the Omnicom / Publicis merger, and uniforms for women in the US army, all covered  by the Times, and all procurement or supply chain stories to some extent.

Of course, it's clear from this that they're taking the competitive threat from Spend Matters very seriously, and are focusing attention strongly on our industry / profession. If they start doing "Down the Procurement Pub" on Fridays, we're in big trouble!

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